Back into the swing

This is the week before classes start at SMU. It’s going to be a busy one. After a travel-heavy summer, with projects not advancing as fast as they would have in a perfect world (where everything works always at once all the time… never been to that world before but I hear it’s nice), it’s time to boot up the course prep. This week, for me, will be first filled with prepping my course syllabus and lectures, planning homework and exams, and updating the course website for my PHY 1308 class (introduction to electricity and magnetism for the life science majors).

The second half of the week will begin to get filled with obligations – the Teaching Effectiveness Symposium, where I have been asked to speak about “high-impact teaching techniques”; meeting our new graduate students (which is actually less an obligation and more a break from obligation – after all, working with students is a major part of why I am a professor in the first place); department meetings; committee work (e.g. planning teaching assistant assignments); and a lot of other things.

In a way, it’s nice to have some predictable regularity coming up again. Nonetheless, swinging from full research to part-teaching is always a shock. Let the shock begin.

NavierStokes – a social bridge

NavierStokes is a software bridge for passing your messages between social networks. It is alpha software.
NavierStokes is a software bridge for passing your messages between social networks. It is alpha software.

Inspired by the creation of the open, federated social protocol in 2013 [1] and the need to bridge posts between a diversity of social networks (, GNU Social [2], Diaspora [3], Twitter, and Facebook), I recently released an alpha version of a social network bridge, named NavierStokes. An homage to the equations at the heart of fluid mechanics, NavierStokes uses external tools to tie together social networks and allow you to distribute posts from one to another.

It is primitive but functional. At least one other person is using it right now for post broadcasting. To learn more about NavierStokes, check out the documentation page (also where you can download it). To install it, you need to be familiar with Python and be able to compile/run C, PHP, Ruby, and Python programs.





The science, not ethics, of unverified Ebola drugs

The Ebola Virus. Image from NIAID (Ref. 2).
The Ebola Virus. Image from NIAID (Ref. 2).

I haven’t posted in a while. The current global Ebola panic, spread mostly by social media and the media and not so much by the actual global threat of Ebola, has spurred me from complacency. Specifically, a WHO ethics panel today unanimously authorized the use of unproven, untested, experimental Ebola drugs in the field. But missing from the public discussion of this move is a key question: what is the scientific benefit (or downside) of this decision? In this short post, I hope to address the issue of using unproven drugs on Ebola patients from the perspective of the scientific method.

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